Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cold War...cold shoulder

I was catching up this afternoon with the news on the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) site, when I found an article that floored my sensibilities. This article dealt with a young man who listened to other countries' shortwave broadcasts back in the period of time we call the "Cold War" era. A large percentage of shortwave listeners collected verification cards to show their friends which of the stations they had actually snagged on the receivers they so dearly loved. To get one of these cards required (in the era before email and the Internet) the listener to send a letter to the station, requesting the card and giving details of the signal strength of the station received, their receiver and antenna setup, and details of the program(s) listened to, along with the date and time the station was received.

The teen received a card from (among others) "Radio Habana" in Cuba. As the article explains, his "mom -- who was the local draft board lady -- got a call from the FBI and Greg had to explain why he was 'in contact' with Radio Habana. When he explained that he was just a shortwave listener, the FBI told Greg that if he never contacted Radio Habana again, his mother could keep her job!"

That threat to the livelihood of the mother of a teen radio listener and hobbyist...a hobbyist who was doing nothing wrong, and who was pursuing an innocent hobby, seems to me very shocking. But, at the same time, my own veneer of hardness continues toward my government's frequently misplaced and probably illegal actions towards its own citizens through the decades of my life.

How else can you view something reported like this?


  1. If you look at the whole history of the US and Cuba, you'll see a pattern into which this fits. The US government is deeply humiliated by Cuba. All its anti-Castro activities have not served to bring the nation down and its continued survival is a slap in Washington's face. So they get testy at anything to do with Cuba. Note: I plan to visit Cuba someday and mix with the people, after I learn enough Spanish. It's legal to go there. You can use a Canadian travel agent.

  2. I wonder how many ham radio folks got a call from the FBI (or perhaps anticipated one) after sending QSL cards (acknowledging radio contacts with Russian hams) to the (in)famous Box 88, Moscow, USSR?

    I had occasion recently to correspond with a Russian ham operator and the thought DID occur to me, especially with the current administration's emphasis on "shoot first, ask questions later" approach to national security.

  3. I'd be pretty surprised if there were some response like the one mentioned these days, Pete. Although we have our tensions in an uproar, we are not into THAT firestorm of paranoia now.